E-Commerce Global Tech

E-commerce Empowers Southeast Asia’s Local Brands

Inabel is a fabric made by a small community of artisans in Northern Philippines.

As online marketplaces and e-commerce services grow in sophistication, small retailers worldwide gain access to new business opportunities that boost local economies and give more choice to consumers everywhere. Even in Southeast Asia, where e-commerce markets remain underdeveloped, local brands see opportunity to achieve national, regional, or even global scale. A few recent initiatives highlight the possibilities.   More

Arts & Culture

Will Movies Move to the Cloud?

The idea of cloud computing these days is, of course, hardly radical. But noted film maker Tiffany Shlain has a notion of what she calls "cloud filmmaking" that is considerably different than what people typically mean when they say "cloud." For her, making movies in the cloud means curating the self-made content (usually selfies) of others to produce her own work. But isn't that crowd-sourced movie making? Not according to Shlain. "I don't like the idea of crowd sourcing.... I get nervous in crowds." Shlain told "Digital Vertigo" author Andrew Keen at a recent Ericsson and AT&T hosted FutureCast event to launch her latest short movie, "The Science of Character."   More

Government Healthcare

How Technology Can Transform Our Healthcare Labyrinth

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Why has our rat-maze approach to coordinating care continued largely unchanged for more than 60 years? For all but the simplest of healthcare needs, we all find ourselves at some point trying to navigate a maze of health care facilities, doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies, and government programs, with all the associated conversations, paperwork, forms, bills, and files they all require. According to the Institute of Medicine, the U.S. healthcare system wastes more than $765 billion each year—about 30 percent of our healthcare spending. If we eliminated this waste, over 10 years we could reduce nearly 50 percent of our national debt.   More

Learning

Education Needs to Change as Fast as Technology

Illustration by Oliver Munday

More Americans go to college than ever. But how many think about the return they will get from tuition payments that can easily reach $200,000? Up to half are unemployed or underemployed a year after graduation. And two-thirds say they need further training and instruction to enter the workforce. As student debt balloons, it's time for society to re-evaluate postsecondary education—and our entire system. We need to create new and innovative systems that help individuals achieve their potential. The Web is changing many important functions of modern society—how we transfer money, communicate, purchase products, and more—but has been slow to transform the critical task of educating the next generation of citizens and leaders.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

As Fitbits for Feelings Emerge, Whither Empathy?

Believe it or not, people really wear Necomimi ears to reflect metabolic excitement in a way they cannot consciously control. (Photo courtesy Neurowear)

Are we losing touch with one another? Are we sinking towards something like Roman civilization, when bloodthirsty spectators eagerly watched men fight to the death in the name of entertainment, now just on high-def screens? Or could empathy in society actually be enhanced by the capabilities of technology? Could machines sense our emotions better than our friends and family can and broadcast that data to them? It's not a crazy idea. In fact, wearable technologies are starting to emerge that are specifically designed to give viewers a sense of what’s going on inside another person. They may be crude now, but they will get better.   More

Global Tech

How Big Can Zuckerberg Make the Net?

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How much difference can one company make? Mark Zuckerberg appears to be setting out to test that question with his immodest goal of connecting everyone on the planet to the Internet. While many companies talk about "doing well by doing good," Facebook's Internet.org initiative makes most other corporate projects for social betterment look banal. But such extreme ambition is not illogical. A unique combination of circumstances confers on Facebook a position—and perhaps a responsibility—unlike any other company. Facebook's site is the most popular on the global Internet. Over one billion people now use it on phones, making it the most popular mobile app as well. The Internet itself, in turn, is an unprecedented tool for social value and growth, transforming business and individual opportunity around the world.   More

E-Commerce

Local Tech Platforms Uncover Neighborhood Secrets

Digital platforms can help users discover local services and vendors, even in big cities like New York.

When the favorite dog groomer and sitter for our family’s timid and particular Maltese left town one week before we were headed overseas, finding a replacement quickly became a household priority. We had no dog care referrals and there was little time to vet the unexplored options. What to do? Being digitally-minded, we decided to turn to Yelp. It helped us quickly identify a groomer/sitter less than a mile away who specializes in Malteses. People in more and more communities are experiencing similar successes. Some expected that off-shoring and consequent “big box” low-prices would be the death knell for local businesses. But online digital platforms are enabling individuals and small businesses to act like large ones, connecting with suppliers and customers wherever they may reside.   More

Business Global Tech

Is Innovation Exploding or Expiring?

Nik Gowing of BBC World News speaks during the State of Innovation session at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2013 in Dalian, China. (Photo: World Economic Forum/Qilai Shen)

Is global innovation waxing or waning? That depends on who you listen to. How we react to economic transitions can depend on the stories we hear and repeat about them. As Nobel laureate Robert Shiller puts it, sometimes these stories “inspire us to go out and spend, start businesses, build new factories and office buildings.” Other times, “they put fear in our hearts and impel us to sit tight, save our resources, curtail spending, and reduce risk.” So it may be with today’s competing narratives on innovation: one portrays a civilization that has run out of big ideas; the other suggests we are on the brink of a new industrial revolution.   More

Government

Pentagon to Destroy $1 Billion Worth of Ammunition Because Data Doesn’t Talk

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While the Defense Department prepares to rid itself of roughly $1.2 billion worth of bullets and missiles, it has come to the attention of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and members of Congress that some of those munitions might actually still be usable by troops. The problem? According to a GAO report first discussed by USA Today, “the Defense Department’s inventory systems can’t share data effectively.” Not only is data not shared effectively, but simple communication between branches of the military is sometimes so discombobulated that near-Rube-Goldberg measures must sometimes be enacted: email requests from one branch that are emailed to another must sometimes be printed out and then re-entered manually before those requests can even be considered, let alone be implemented.   More

E-Commerce Mobile

eBay’s Devin Wenig on Retail in a Post-Mobile Age

With mobile connectivity more and more ubiquitous, could we be entering a post-mobile age? eBay's Devin Wenig thinks so, and says it will increasingly define the global marketplace. "The physical and digital worlds are coming together in incredibly interesting ways," Wenig told us at a recent Techonomy dinner salon in San Francisco. Retail is turning stores into virtual shopping and shipping centers, said Wenig, while platforms like Uber and Airbnb use tech to link data to the physical world. The fear that online retailers like eBay could decimate physical retail is being upended, according to Wenig. Instead, small merchants and service providers are learning to use tech and data to broaden their distribution and become more competitive. "Some call it collaborative consumption, some call it the merger of physical and digital. Whatever you call it," said Wenig, "the change ... has been astounding."   More

Security & Privacy

Microsoft’s Craig Mundie on Cyber-danger

No sector of society is free from risk of cyberattack, says Craig Mundie of Microsoft. "Information technology is embedding itself in virtually everything," making us susceptible to threats ranging from malicious mischief to full-blown cyberterrorism, Mundie told us in an interview at Techonomy 2013. Such new and developing threats call for products and business methods to improve alongside technology. The government, too, is going to have to to keep up with better law enforcement, intelligence, and defense.   More

Global Tech

Tesla Drives into China

(Image via Shutterstock)

Tesla has created the kind of buzz and excitement this week that only names like Apple and smartphone sensation Xiaomi have typically been able to muster. In the last two days, the company and its charismatic founder Elon Musk were all over the Chinese headlines as Tesla delivered its first electric vehicles (EVs) in China on the sidelines of the nation’s biggest annual auto show happening this week in Beijing. Tesla has done an incredible job of launching its first vehicle sales in China. This kind of media frenzy and hype surrounding a product launch hasn't been seen for at least a year or two, back when Apple was still at the height of coolness in China.   More

Global Tech

Robot Meets Cow

From the classroom to the battlefield, robots have been making their occupational debut in some of the unlikeliest of places. Now they're heading to the farm to take on jobs as cow milkers. Developed in Europe, the robotic milking technology is allowing cows to be milked any time they want, simply by walking up to a robot and letting the machine do its work. And because dairy cows are almost always pregnant (in order for them to lactate), the ability to be milked more frequently goes a long way in increasing their comfort. In addition to milking, the robotic milkers scan cows' stomachs, gauge milking rates, and monitor such stats as the amount of milk produced, how much a cow eats, and how many steps it takes.   More

Business Global Tech

This Emerging Markets Credit Card Is Backed by Facebook Friends

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Bogota might soon be home to thousands more online shoppers. That’s where Lenddo introduced a “social network” Visa card to 100,000 of its customers yesterday afternoon. By 3:00 p.m. yesterday in New York, where the online lender for developing countries is based, more than 1,000 Colombians had applied for the card. Lenddo CEO and co-founder Jeff Stewart calls it the first time ever, anywhere, that approval for a credit card is based on applicants’ reputations on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In emerging markets, even a steady reliable income and good education are generally no guarantee of access to credit for members of the middle class.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Tomorrow’s Sci-Fi Tech Excites Us … and Scares Us

(Image via Shutterstock)

For all the technological change Americans have witnessed in recent decades, from space travel to smartphones, we know much more is coming. And we’re only happy about some of it. A study by the Pew Research Center released last week finds that while Americans are generally optimistic about science and technology in the long term, we’re more pessimistic about it in the short term. The report culled data from a survey of 1,001 adults, with questions that attempted to get at the heart of attitudes toward closer-term advances—like bioengineering and robotics—and longer-term possibilities like space colonization and teleportation.   More

Global Tech

How Tencent Uses WeChat to Target Alibaba

(Image via Shutterstock)

Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s worries about the rapid rise of mobile instant messaging service WeChat appear to be well founded, with word that Tencent’s wildly popular platform will create an exclusive shopping channel for Alibaba’s chief rival JD.com. This kind of deal must certainly be Ma’s biggest nightmare, as it will instantly link JD, China’s second largest e-commerce company, with the hundreds of millions of young Chinese who regularly use WeChat to communicate. What’s more, WeChat has shown itself quite capable of converting its users into shoppers who could easily become JD customers.   More

Jobs

eBay’s Devin Wenig on Tech’s Destruction … and Humanism

"While tech is sometimes thought of as a sector or a niche, it's increasingly clear that tech is the economy and tech is the transformative force," says Devin Wenig, president of eBay's global e-commerce business. As tech reinvents industries, jobs, and processes, and changes how people work and act, companies that want to succeed must learn to accept creative destruction. "Any time you go through a disruption, you end up with winners and losers," said Wenig, who joined us at a Techonomy dinner salon in San Francisco. "But I do believe it's a positive-sum game," he added. And he says that in this game, humans, not just machines, are winning. "I don't think the world coming is all full of drones and robots.... It can be amazingly humanistic," Wenig said.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare

63 Companies Bent on Transforming Healthcare

StartUp Health co-founder Unity Stoakes.

When serial entrepreneurs Unity Stoakes and Steven Krein set out to build a digital health company, they quickly discovered that entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector face a unique set of challenges: daunting regulations, privacy issues, long sales cycles, and industry-wide resistance to change. So they shifted their attention to creating a platform that lets healthcare entrepreneurs innovate more easily. With support from former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin and other high-powered investors including Esther Dyson and Mark Cuban, in partnership with Steve Case’s Startup America, and with applause from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Stoakes and Krein established StartUp Health in 2011. Stoakes describes the company as part community, part knowledge base, and part academy offering a structured curriculum to help CEOs and founders, calling his audience “Healthcare Transformers.”   More

Bio & Life Sciences

How You Are Hurt by FDA Genetic Test Restrictions

(Image via Shutterstock)

These are boom times for progress in genetic testing, but restrictions limiting access are delaying benefits we could all be experiencing right now. The National Institutes of Health maintains a Genetic Testing Registry, which currently lists some 15,000 available genetic tests. Together, they can single out 2,800 genes for some 4,000 medical conditions—and that’s not factoring in the rapidly growing exome or genome sequencing tests that look at all known genes. With so many tests out there, there’s a good chance that one exists to scan for whatever diseases may run in your family. But you may not be able to get those tests. Direct consumer access has always been tricky in U.S. medicine, and the FDA’s crackdown on consumer genetic testing firm 23andMe last year has providers running scared.   More

Jobs

Is Inequality an Unavoidable Consequence of Innovation?

(Image via Shutterstock)

The economics of innovation and its impact on society was the theme of the annual economists' pow-wow in Toronto last weekend, the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference. And there was no presumption that it is, on the whole, a plus. Authoritative speakers at the three-day conference included former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and James Heckman, former co-CEO of Research In Motion Jim Balsillie, and Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane. But the event's opening keynote featured a panel of experts who explored the duality inherent in innovations that create new inventions, products, sources of demand, and markets while simultaneously imposing job losses and "significant distributional consequences for society."   More